Cordial business, trading and cultural relations have long existed between the Arab world and Japan, one of the region’s most important economic and diplomatic partners.
A major part of Japan’s energy imports come from the GCC, and the numerous Arab countries import manufactured goods and electronic equipment from Japan.
Japan’s commitment to prioritize the peace and stability of the region means that the Arab world is a destination for significant Japanese financial investments.
Against this background, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is visiting Saudi Arabia as part of a tour to explain Tokyo’s plans to send Self-Defense Forces (SDF) personnel to the region.
Preparations are also underway in Saudi Arabia for the G20 leaders’ summit, which will take place in Riyadh in November, following the highly successful event held in Osaka, Japan, in June 2019.
While there may be growing Saudi-Japanese ties at the level of politics and government, how much can Saudis be expected to be familiar with a culture that is thousands of miles away and, on the surface of things, so foreign to the culture and geography of the Middle East?
Arab News recently engaged the market-research firm YouGov to conduct a poll in across 18 countries, including Saudi Arabia, to uncover views of Arabs about Japan, its international relations and domestic politics.
The study revealed a high level of not only understanding, but also appreciation of Japan and its people.
Saudi respondents’ first impressions of the Japanese were that they were organized (51 percent,) hardworking (50 percent) and technical (42 percent). Other words used to describe the Japanese culture were punctual, respectful and creative.
The Arab News-YouGov study revealed a high level of not only understanding, but also appreciation of Japan and its people across 18 countries, including Saudi Arabia.
Faisal J. Abbas
More than half of Saudis (51 percent) polled said they view Japan as the most neutral mediator of a possible peace deal between Israel and Palestine.
An impressive 64 percent of Saudis also correctly identified Japan as belonging to the G20, while 59 percent said it is a member of the G7.
The survey found that 56 percent of Saudis know that Japan is one of the top five economies of the world, while 31 percent know that the country was in the top 10 globally.
In the survey, 10 percent of Saudi respondents said they had visited Japan, but 77 percent said they intended to travel there in the future. Mount Fuji volcano would top the list of places to visit for most Saudis.
The high-speed bullet train proved to be a popular choice among 61 percent of Saudis questioned, followed by sushi (46 percent), Japanese manga and cosplay culture (45 percent) and traditional arts such as the tea ceremony (44 percent).
The survey also suggested that Saudis were widely familiar with products made by the technologically advanced nation, with many correctly identifying Sony, Sega and Muji as Japanese brands.
Our goal at Arab News is to bring a better mutual understanding of both of our rich cultures and become a trusted communication channel where our friends in Japan can rely on us for credible information and insightful analysis.
Through Arab News Japan, we are providing a content mix that blends original reporting from both the Middle East and Japan as well as a Japanese translation of some of our most important news and views.
The pan-Arab poll marks the first step in that journey.
- Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News. Twitter: @FaisalJAbbas